THE SECOND RELECTIO
OF THE REVEREND FATHER, BROTHER FRANCISCUS DE VICTORIA,
ON THE INDIANS, OR ON THE LAW OF WAR
MADE BY THE SPANIARDS ON THE BARBARIANS.
1. Christians may serve in war and make war.
2. In whose hands lies the authority to make or declare war?
3. Anyone, even a private person, can accept and wage a defensive war.
4. Whether one who is attacked by a robber or a foe may strike back the
assailant, if able to escape by flight.
5. Every commonwealth has authority to declare and make war.
6. A prince has the same authority to declare and make war as a State has.
7. What a State is and who is properly styled a prince.
8. Whether several States or princes, when they have one common lord or
prince, may make war of themselves without the authority of the superior lord.
9. Petty rulers or princes, who are not at the head of a complete State, but
are parts of another State, can not undertake or make war. And what about
10. What can be a reason or cause of just war? Proof that diversity of
religion is not a cause of just war.
11. Extension of an Empire is not a just cause of war.
12. The personal glory, or other advantage, of a prince is not a just cause
13. Wrong done is the sole and only just cause for making war.
14. Not every kind and degree of wrong suffices for making war.
15. When just war exists, everything is lawful which is necessary for the
defense of the public good.
16. In just war it is lawful to retake all things that have been lost, or a
17. In just war it is lawful to make good, out of the goods of the enemy,
all the cost of the war and all damages wrongfully caused by the enemy.
18. After property has been recaptured from an enemy in just war, what the
prince may then do.
19. It is lawful for a prince, after gaining the victory in a just war and
after retaking property, and even after the establishment of peace and
security, to avenge the wrongs done to him by the enemy and to take measures
against the enemy and punish them for these wrongs.
20. In order that a war be called just, it is not always enough that the
prince believes he has a just cause.
21. The justice of a war must be most thoroughly and carefully examined.
22. Whether subjects are bound to examine the cause of a war; and how, if a
subject is convinced of the injustice of a war, he may not serve in it, even
though his sovereign commands.
23. If subjects are conscientiously of opinion that a war is unjust, they
may not serve in it, whether their opinion be wrong or right.
24. Senators, petty rulers, and, in general, all who, either on summons or
coming of their own accord, are admitted to the public council or the king's
council, are bound to examine the cause of an unjust war.
25. Who are not bound to examine the causes of war, but may lawfully serve
in it in reliance on the good faith of their betters.
26. When ignorance of the injustice of a war would not excuse subjects who
27. What is to be done, when there is doubt about the justice of a war; and
how if one prince be in lawful possession, so long as the doubt remains another
may not try to turn him out by war and armed force.
28. If there be a city or province concerning which it is doubtful whether
it has a lawful possessor, especially where there is a vacancy owing to the
death of the lawful lord, etc. — what is to be done in such a case.
29. How a person who is doubtful about his own title, even if he be in
peaceable possession, is bound to make careful examination of his case, if
perchance he can arrive at certainty either in his own favor or in favor of
30. After the examination of a case, so long as a doubt reasonably persists,
a lawful possessor is not bound to quit possession, but may lawfully retain it.
31. In a doubtful case, subjects may follow their prince to battle not only
in a defensive, but also in an offensive war.
32. Whether a war can be just on both sides, and how, apart from ignorance,
this can not happen.
33. Whether a prince or a subject, who in ignorance has prosecuted an unjust
war, is bound to make restitution, if afterwards he becomes convinced of its
34. Whether it is lawful in war to kill the innocent.
35. Slaughter of the innocent is never lawful in itself and intentionally.
36. Whether it is lawful to kill women and children in a war against the
Turks; and what, among Christians, about farmers, civilians, foreigners,
strangers, and clergy.
37. The incidental killing of the innocent, even with knowledge, is
sometimes lawful, sometimes not.
38. Whether it is lawful to kill the innocent from whom danger in the future
39. Whether it is lawful to despoil the innocent among the enemy, and what
things may be taken.
40. If war can be adequately conducted without despoiling farmers or other
innocent folk, it seems unlawful to despoil them; and what about foreigners and
strangers on enemy territory?
41. How, if the enemy refuse to restore the things which they have
wrongfully taken away, and the injured party can not recoup himself in any
other way, he can seek satisfaction where he will, whether from the guilty or
42. Whether the innocent and children, who are admittedly not to be killed,
may at least be led into captivity and slavery.
43. Whether hostages, taken from the enemy in time of truce or on the
termination of a war, may be put to death, if the enemy break faith and do not
abide by what has been agreed on.
44. Whether it is lawful in war to kill all the guilty.
45. It is lawful to kill without distinction all who resist in the actual
heat of battle either in the storming or in the defense of a city, and as long
as affairs are in peril.
46. It is lawful to kill the guilty, even after victory has been won and
danger has already been removed.
47. It is not always lawful to kill all the guilty, merely in order to
avenge a wrong.
48. At times it is both lawful and expedient to kill all the guilty,
especially in a war against unbelievers. And what in a war against Christians?
49. Whether it is lawful to kill captives and those who have surrendered,
assuming them to have been guilty also.
50. Whether things captured in a just war belong to the captor and seizor;
and how these things vest in the seizor up to a sufficient satisfaction for
what has been wrongfully taken away and for expenses.
51. How all movables, by the law of nations, vest in the seizor, even though
their value more than compensates the wrong done.
52. Whether it is lawful to leave a city to the soldiery by way of booty;
and how this is not unlawful, but at times even necessary.
53. Soldiers may not loot or bum without authority; otherwise they are bound
to make restitution.
54. It is lawful to seize and hold the lands and fortresses and towns of the
enemy, so far as this is necessary by way of compensation for damages done.
55. It is lawful to seize and hold an enemy fortress or city by way of
obtaining securely and avoiding danger or as a means of defense and in order to
take away from the enemy an opportunity to do harm, etc.
56. It is lawful to deprive the enemy of part of his territory on account of
the wrong he has done and by way of punishment, that is, revenge; and how on
this ground a fortress or town may be seized, so long as due limits are
57. Whether it is lawful to impose the payment of tribute on the conquered
58. Whether it is lawful to depose the princes of the enemy and put new ones
over them or retain the sovereignty for oneself; and how it is not lawful to do
this indiscriminately and for every cause of just war whatsoever.
59. When the princes of the enemy may lawfully be deposed, is shown.
60. The canons or rules of belligerency are described.
Inasmuch as the seizure and occupation of those lands of the barbarians whom
we style Indians can best, it seems, be defended under the law of war, I
propose to supplement the foregoing discussion of the titles, some just and
some unjust, which the Spaniards may allege for their hold on the lands in
question, by a short discussion of the law of war, so as to give more
completeness to that relectio. As, however, the other claims on my time
will not allow me to deal with all the points which arise out of this topic,
the scope which I can give my pen must be proportionate, not to the amplitude
and dignity of the theme, but to the shortness of the time at my disposal. And
so I will merely note the main propositions of this topic, together with very
brief proofs, and will abstain from touching on the many doubtful matters which
might otherwise be brought into this discussion. I will deal with four
principal questions. First, Whether Christians may make war at all; secondly,
Where does the authority to declare or wage war repose; thirdly, What may and
ought to furnish causes of just war; fourthly, What and how extensive measures
may be taken in a just war against the enemy?
As regards the first question, war might seem altogether prohibited to
Christians, for there is the prohibition of self-defense in the passage
(Romans, ch. 12), "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give
place unto wrath," and our Lord says in the Gospel (St. Matthew,
ch. 5), "Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the
other also" and "I say unto you not to resist evil," and (St.
Matthew, ch. 26), "All they that take the sword shall perish by the
sword." And it is no sufficient answer to say that all these matters are
not of precept, but of counsel, for it would be a grave enough impropriety if
every war undertaken by Christians was contrary to our Lord's advice. The
opinion of all the doctors is to the contrary and so is the received usage of
In development of this question be it noted that, although Catholics are
fairly in accord on the matter, yet Luther, who left naught uncontaminated,
denies that Christians may take up arms even against the Turks, and he relies
not only on the above-cited texts of Scripture, but also on the fact that if
the Turks attack Christendom it is the will of God, which may not be resisted.
Herein, however, he had not as much success as in his other dogmas in imposing
on the Germans, who are born soldiers. Tertullian too, seems not averse from
this opinion, for in his De corona militis he discusses "whether
military service is at all right for a Christian," and in the issue he
inclines to hold that military service is forbidden to a Christian, who, says
he, "may not even go to law."
1. Passing over outside opinions, however, let my answer to the question be
given in the single proposition: Christians may serve in war and make war. This
is the conclusion of St. Augustine in the many passages where he thoroughly
considers the question, such as: (a) in his Contra Faustum,
(b) in his Liber 83 Quaestionum, (c) in his De verbis
Domini, in his Contra Secundinum Manichaeum, (d) in his
sermon on the Centurion's son, and (e) in his Letter to Boniface. And,
as St. Augustine shows, this is proved by the words of John the Baptist to the
soldiers (St. Luke, ch. 3), "Do violence to no man, neither accuse
any falsely." "But," says St. Augustine, (f) "if
Christian doctrine condemned war altogether, those looking for counsels of
salvation in the Gospel would be told to throw away their arms and give up
soldiering altogether; but what is said to them is, 'Do violence to no man and
be content with your wages.'"
Secondly, there is proof in the reason of the thing (Secunda
Secundae, qu. 40, art. 1). To draw the sword and use arms against internal
wrongdoers and seditious citizens is lawful according to Romans, ch. 13,
"He beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a
revenger of wrath upon him that doeth evil." Therefore it is lawful also
to use the sword and arms against external enemies. Princes, accordingly, are
told in the Psalms,1 "Deliver the poor and needy,
rid them out of the hand of the wicked."
Thirdly, this was also allowable by the law of nature, as appears from the
case of Abraham, who fought against four kings (Genesis, ch. 14), and
also by the written law, as appears from the cases of David and the Maccabees.
But the Gospel law forbids nothing which is allowed by natural law, as is well
shown by St. Thomas (Prima Secundae, qu. 107, last art.), and that is
why it is called the law of liberty (St. James, ch. 1 and 2). Therefore,
what was lawful under natural law and in the written law is no less lawful
under the Gospel law.
Fourthly, since there can be no doubt that in a defensive war force may be
employed to repel force (Dig., 1, 1, 3), this is also proved with regard
to an offensive war, that is, a war where we are not only defending ourselves
or seeking to repossess ourselves of property, but also where we are trying to
avenge ourselves for some wrong done to us. This, I say, is proved by the
authority of St. Augustine (Liber 83 Quastionum) in a passage also found
in can. dominus, C. 23, qu. 2, "Those wars are described as just
wars which are waged in order to avenge a wrong done, as where punishment has
to be meted out to a city or state because it has itself neglected to exact
punishment for an offense committed by its citizens or subjects or to return
what has been wrongfully taken away."
A fifth proof with regard to an offensive war is that even a defensive war
could not be waged satisfactorily, were no vengeance taken on enemies who have
done or tried to do a wrong. For they would only be emboldened to make a second
attack, if the fear of retribution did not keep them from wrongdoing.
A sixth proof is that, as St. Augustine says (De verbo Domini and
Ad Bonifacium), the end and aim of war is the peace and security of the
State. But there can be no security in the State unless enemies are made to
desist from wrong by the fear of war, for the situation with regard to war
would be glaringly unfair, if all that a State could do when enemies attack it
unjustly was to ward off the attack and if they could not follow this up by
A seventh proof comes from the end and aim and good of the whole world. For
there would be no condition of happiness for the world, nay, its condition
would be one of utter misery, if oppressors and robbers and plunderers could
with impunity commit their crimes and oppress the good and innocent, and these
latter could not in turn retaliate on them.
My eighth and last proof is one which in morals carries the utmost weight,
namely, the authority and example of good and holy men. Such men have not only
defended their country and their own property in defensive wars, but have also
in offensive wars sought reparation for wrongs done or attempted by their
enemies, as appears from the case of Jonathan and Simon (I Maccabees,
ch. 9), who avenged the death of their brother John on the sons of Jambri. And
in the Christian Church we have the conspicuous examples of Constantine the
Great and Theodosius the Elder and other renowned and most Christian Emperors,
who made many wars of both kinds, although their councils included bishops of
great sanctity and learning.
2. Second question: In whose hands lies the authority to declare and to make
3. Herein let my first proposition be: Any one, even a private person, can
accept and wage a defensive war. This is shown by the fact that force may be
repelled by force (Dig., as above). Hence any one can make this kind of
war, without authority from any one else, for the defense not only of his
person, but also of his property and goods.
4. A doubt, however, arises in connection with this proposition, namely,
whether one who is attacked by a robber or enemy can strike his assailant back
if escape by flight is possible. The Archbishop, indeed, says, No; this being
in excess of the limits of blameless self-defense, since everyone is bound in
the exercise of self-defense to do as little harm as possible to his assailant.
If, then, resistance would involve the death of or grievous bodily harm to the
assailant, but escape by flight is a possible thing, the latter course ought to
be adopted. Panormitanus, however, writing on X, 2, 13, 12, draws a
distinction. If, says he, the victim would be seriously disgraced by flight, he
is not bound to fly, but may repel the wrong by striking back, whereas if
flight would not smirch his reputation or honor, as when a monk or rustic is
attacked by a noble and powerful man, he is bound to fly instead. Bartolus,
however, commenting on Dig., 48, 19, 1, and 48, 8, 9, holds without
distinguishing that self-defense is lawful and that there is no obligation to
fly, the putting to flight being itself a wrong (Dig., 47, 10, 15). If,
then, armed resistance is permissible in defense of property, as appears from
X, 2, 13, 12, and from c. 6, tit. II, bk. 5 in VI, much more is
it permissible in order to protect the body from hurt, such hurt being more
serious than wrong to property (Dig., 48, 19, 10). This opinion can be
safely held and with possibility of demonstration, especially as the civil law
admits as much, as in Dig., 48, 8, 9. Now, no one sins who acts under
warrant of the law, inasmuch as the law affords justification in the forum of
conscience. Accordingly, even if natural law does not allow killing in defense
of property, this is rendered lawful by the civil law and is available, so long
as no scandal is caused, not only to laymen, but to clerics and professed
5. Second proposition: Every State has authority to declare and to make war.
In course of proof of this be it noted that the difference herein between a
private person and a State is that a private person is entitled, as said above,
to defend himself and what belongs to him, but has no right to avenge a wrong
done to him, nay, not even to recapt property that has been seized from him if
time has been allowed to go by since the seizure. But defense can only be
resorted to at the very moment of the danger, or, as the jurists say, in
continenti, and so when the necessity of defense has passed there is an end
to the lawfulness of war. In my view, however, one who has been contumeliously
assaulted can immediately strike back, even if the assaulter was not proposing
to make a further attack, for in the avoidance of shame and disgrace one who
(for example) has had his ears boxed might immediately use his sword, not for
the purpose of vengeance, but, as has been said, in order to avoid infamy and
disgrace. But a State is within its rights not only in defending itself, but
also in avenging itself and its subjects and in redressing wrongs. This is
proved by what Aristotle says in the third book of his Politics, namely,
that a State ought to be sufficient unto itself. But it can not adequately
protect the public weal and the position of the State if it can not avenge a
wrong and take measures against its enemies, for wrongdoers would become
readier and bolder for wrongdoing, if they could do wrong with impunity. It is,
therefore, imperative for the due ordering of human affairs that this authority
be allowed to States.
6. Third proposition: A prince has the same authority in this respect as the
State has. This is the opinion of St. Augustine (Contra Faustum):
"The natural order, best adapted to secure the peace of mankind, requires
that the authority to make war and the advisability of it should be in the
hands of the sovereign prince." Reason supports this, for the prince only
holds his position by the election of the State. Therefore he is its
representative and wields its authority; aye, and where there are already
lawful princes in a State, all authority is in their hands and without them
nothing of a public nature can be done either in war or in peace.
7. Now, the whole difficulty is in the questions: What is a State, and who
can properly be called a sovereign prince? I will briefly reply to them by
saying that a State is properly called a perfect community. But the essence of
the difficulty is in saying what a perfect community is. By way of solution be
it noted that a thing is called perfect when it is a completed whole, for that
is imperfect in which there is something wanting, and, on the other hand, that
is perfect from which nothing is wanting. A perfect State or community,
therefore, is one which is complete in itself, that is, which is not a part of
another community, but has its own laws and its own council and its own
magistrates, such as is the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon and the Republic of
Venice and other the like. For there is no obstacle to many principalities and
perfect States being under one prince. Such a State, then, or the prince
thereof, has authority to declare war, and no one else.
8. Here, however, a doubt may well arise whether, when a number of States of
this kind or a number of princes have one common lord or prince, they can make
war of themselves and without the authorization of their superior lord. My
answer is that they can do so undoubtedly, just as the kings who are
subordinate to the Emperor can make war on one another without waiting for the
Emperor's authorization, for (as has been said) a State ought to be
self-sufficient, and this it would not be, if it had not the faculty in
9. Hence it follows and is plain that other petty rulers and princes, who
are not at the head of a perfect State, but are parts of another State, can not
begin to carry on a war. Such is the Duke of Alva or the Count of Benevento,
for they are parts of the Kingdom of Castile and consequently have not perfect
States. As, however, these matters are for a great part governed by the law of
nations or by human law, Custom can give power and authority to make war. And
so if any State or prince has obtained by ancient custom the right to make war
of itself or himself, this authority can not be gainsaid, even if in other
respects the State be not a perfect one. So, also, necessity can confer this
license and authority. For if within one and the same realm one city should
take up arms against another, or one of the dukes against another duke, and the
king should neglect or should lack courage to exact redress for the wrongs that
have been done, the aggrieved city or duke may not only resort to self-defense,
but may also commence war and take measures against the enemy and even kill the
wrongdoers, there being no other adequate means of self-defense. For the enemy
would not cease from outrage, if the victims thereof were content merely with
self-defense. On this principle a private person also may begin an attack on
his foe, if there is no other way of safeguarding himself from wrong. This is
enough on the present question.
10. Third question: What may be a reason and cause of just war? It is
particularly necessary to ask this in connection with the case of the Indian
aborigines, which is now before us. Here my first proposition is: Difference of
religion is not a cause of just war. This was shown at length in the preceding
Relectio, when we demolished the fourth alleged title for taking possession of
the Indians, namely, their refusal to accept Christianity. And it is the
opinion of St. Thomas (Secunda Secundae, qu. 66, art. 8), and the common
opinion of the doctors — indeed, I know of no one of the opposite way of
11. Second proposition: Extension of empire is not a just cause of war. This
is too well known to need proof, for otherwise each of the two belligerents
might have an equally just cause and so both would be innocent. This in its
turn would involve the consequence that it would not be lawful to kill them and
so imply a contradiction, because it would be a just war.
12. Third proposition: Neither the personal glory of the prince nor any
other advantage to him is a just cause of war. This, too. is notorious. For a
prince ought to subordinate both peace and war to the common weal of his State
and not spend public revenues in quest of his own glory or gain, much less
expose his subjects to danger on that account. Herein, indeed, is the
difference between a lawful king and a tyrant, that the latter directs his
government towards his individual profit and advantage, but a king to the
public welfare, as Aristotle says (Politics, bk. 4, ch. 10). Also, the
prince derives his authority from the State. Therefore he ought to use it for
the good of the State. Also, laws ought "not to be enacted for the private
good of any individual, but in the common interest of all the citizens,"
as is ruled in can. 2, Dist. 4, a citation from Isadore. Therefore the rules
relating to war ought to be for the common good of all and not for the private
good of the prince. Again, this is the difference between freemen and slaves,
as Aristotle says (Politics, bk. I, ch. 3 and 4) that masters exploit
slaves for their own good and not for the good of the slaves, while freemen do
not exist in the interest of others, but in their own interest. And so, were a
prince to misuse his subjects by compelling them to go soldiering and to
contribute money for his campaigns, not for the public good, but for his own
private gain, this would be to make slaves of them.
13. Fourth proposition: There is a single and only just cause for commencing
a war, namely, a wrong received. The proof of this rests in the first place on
the authority of St. Augustine (Liber 83 Quaestionum* "Those wars
are described as just wars," etc., as above), and it is the conclusion
arrived at by St. Thomas (Secunda Secundae, qu. 40, art. 1) and the
opinion of all the doctors. Also, an offensive war is for the purpose of
avenging a wrong and of taking measures against an enemy, as said above. But
there can be no vengeance where there is no preceding fault and wrong.
Therefore. Also, a prince has no greater authority over foreigners than
over his own subjects. But he may not draw his sword against his own
subjects, unless they have done some wrong. Therefore not against foreigners
either. This is confirmed by the text already cited from St. Paul
(Romans, ch. 13) about a prince: "He beareth not the sword in vain:
for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth
evil." Hence it is clear that we may not turn our sword against those who
do us no harm, the killing of the innocent being forbidden by natural law. I
omit here any injunctions inconsistent herewith which God has given in special
cases, for He is the Lord of life and death and it is within His competence to
vary His dispositions.
14. Fifth proposition: Not every kind and degree of wrong can suffice for
commencing a war. The proof of this is that not even upon one's own
fellow-countrymen is it lawful for every offense to exact atrocious
punishments, such as death or banishment or confiscation of property. As, then,
the evils inflicted in war are all of a severe and atrocious character, such as
slaughter and fire and devastation, it is not lawful for slight wrongs to
pursue the authors of the wrongs with war, seeing that the degree of the
punishment ought to correspond to the measure of the offence (Deuteronomy,
15. The fourth question is about the law of war, namely, what kind and
degree of stress is lawful in a just war. Here let my first proposition be: In
war everything is lawful which the defense of the common weal requires. This is
notorious, for the end and aim of war is the defense and preservation of the
State. Also, a private person may do this in self-defense, as has been proved.
Therefore much more may a State and a prince.
16. Second proposition: It is permissible to recapt everything that has been
lost and any part of the same. This is too notorious to need proof. For war is
-begun or undertaken with this object.
17. Third proposition: It is lawful to make good out of enemy property the
expenses of the war and all damages wrongfully caused by the enemy. This is
clear, for the enemy who has done the wrong is bound to give all this redress.
Therefore the prince can claim it all and exact it all by war. Also, as before,
there is the argument that, when no other way lies open, a private creditor can
seize the amount of his debt from the debtor. Also, if there were any competent
judge over the two belligerents, he would have to condemn the unjust aggressors
and authors of wrong, not only to make restitution of what they have carried
off, but also to make good the expenses of the war to the other side, and also
all damages. But a prince who is carrying on a just war is as it were his own
judge in matters touching the war, as we shall forthwith show. Therefore he can
enforce all these claims upon his enemy.
18. Fourth proposition: Not only are the things just named allowable, but a
prince may go even further in a just war and do whatever is necessary in order
to obtain peace and security from the enemy; for example, destroy an enemy's
fortress and even build one on enemy soil, if this be necessary in order to
avert a dangerous attack of the enemy. This is proved by the fact that, as said
above, the end and aim of war is peace and security. Therefore a belligerent
may do everything requisite to obtain peace and security. Further, tranquillity
and peace are reckoned among the desirable things of mankind and so the utmost
material prosperity does not produce a state of happiness if there be no
security there. Therefore it is lawful to employ all appropriate measures
against enemies who are plundering and disturbing the tranquillity of the
State. Also, all measures of this kind may be taken against internal foes, that
is, against bad citizens. Therefore they are lawful against external foes. The
antecedent is clear, for if one citizen does a wrong to a fellow citizen, the
magistrate not only compels the wrongdoer to make amends to the injured party,
but, if the former is a source of fear to the latter, he is compelled to give
bond or quit the city, so as to remove the danger of which he is the cause.
This shows that even when victory has been won and redress obtained, the enemy
may be made to give hostages, ships, arms, and other things, when this is
genuinely necessary for keeping the enemy in his duty and preventing him from
becoming dangerous again.
19. Fifth proposition: Not only is all this permissible, but even after
victory has been won and redress obtained and peace and safety been secured, it
is lawful to avenge the wrong received from the enemy and to take measures
against him and exact punishment from him for the wrongs he has done. In proof
of this be it observed that princes have authority not only over their own
subjects, but also over foreigners, so far as to prevent them from committing
wrongs, and this is by the law of nations and by the authority of the whole
world. Nay, it seems to be by natural law also, seeing that otherwise society
could not hold together unless there was somewhere a power and authority to
deter wrongdoers and prevent them from injuring the good and innocent. Now,
everything needed for the government and preservation of society exists by
natural law, and in no other way can we show that a State has by natural law
authority to inflict pains and penalties on its citizens who are dangerous to
it. But if a State can do this to its own citizens, society at large no doubt
can do it to all wicked and dangerous folk, and this can only be through the
instrumentality of princes. It is, therefore, certain that princes can punish
enemies who have done a wrong to their State and that after a war has been duly
and justly undertaken the enemy are just as much within the jurisdiction of the
prince who undertakes it as if he were their proper judge. Confirmation hereof
is furnished by the fact that in reality peace and tranquillity, which are the
end and aim of war, can not be had unless evils and damages be visited on the
enemy in order to deter them from the like conduct in the future. All this is
also proved and confirmed by the authority and examples of good men. For, as
said above, the Maccabees made war not only to recover the things which they
had lost, but also to avenge their wrongs. And some most Christian princes and
most religious Emperors have done the same thing. Moreover, shame and disgrace
are not wiped away from a State merely by its rout of Its enemies, but also by
its visiting severe punishment and castigation on them. Now, among the things
which a prince is bound to defend and preserve for his State are its honor and
20. Many doubts are suggested by what has just been said. In the first
place, there is a doubtful point in connection with the justice of a war,
whether it be enough for a just war that the prince believes himself to have a
just cause. On this point let my first proposition be: This belief is not
always enough. And for proof I rely, first, on the fact that in some matters of
less moment it is not enough either for a prince or for private persons to
believe that they are acting justly. This is notorious, for their error may be
vincible and deliberate, and the opinion of the individual is not enough to
render an act good, but it must come up to the standard of a wise man's
judgment, as appears from Ethics, bk. 2. Also the result would otherwise
be that very many wars would be just on both sides, for although it is not a
common occurrence for princes to wage war in bad faith, they nearly always
think theirs is a just cause. In this way all belligerents would be innocent
and it would not be lawful to kill them. Also, were it otherwise, even Turks
and Saracens might wage just wars against Christians, for they think they are
thus rendering God service.
21. Second proposition: It is essential for a just war that an exceedingly
careful examination be made of the justice and causes of the war and that the
reasons of those who on grounds of equity oppose it be listened to. For (as the
comic poet says) "A wise man must make trial of everything by words before
resorting to force," and he ought to consult the good and wise and those
who speak with freedom and without anger or bitterness or greed, seeing that
(as Sallust says) "where these vices hold sway, truth is not easily
distinguished." This is self-evident. For truth and justice in moral
questions are hard of attainment and so any careless treatment of them easily
leads to error, an error which will be inexcusable, especially in a concern of
great moment, involving danger and calamity to many, and they our neighbors,
too, whom we are bound to love as ourselves.
22. Second doubt: Whether subjects are bound to examine the cause of a war
or whether they may serve in the war without any careful scrutiny thereof, just
as the lictors had to enforce the praetor's decree without questioning. On this
doubt let my first proposition be: If a subject is convinced of the injustice
of a war, he ought not to serve in it, even on the command of his prince. This
is clear, for no one can authorize the killing of an innocent person. But in
the case before us the enemy are innocent. Therefore they may not be killed.
Again, a prince sins when he commences a war in such a case. But "not only
are they who commit such things worthy of death, but they, too, who consent to
the doing thereof" (Romans, ch. 1). Therefore soldiers also are not
excused when they fight in bad faith. Again, it is not lawful to kill innocent
citizens at the prince's command. Therefore not aliens either.
23. Hence flows the corollary that subjects whose conscience is against the
justice of a war may not engage in it whether they be right or wrong. This is
clear, for "whatever is not of faith is sin" (Romans, ch. 14).
24. Second proposition: Senators and petty rulers and in general all who arc
admitted on summons or voluntarily to the public council or the prince's
council ought, and are bound, to examine into the cause of an unjust war. This
is clear; for whoever can save his neighbor from danger and harm is bound to do
so, especially when the danger is that of death and greater ills, as is the
case in war. But the persons referred to can avert the war, supposing it to be
unjust, if they lend their wisdom and weight to an examination into its causes.
Therefore they are bound so to do. Again, if by their neglect an unjust war be
entered on, they are consenting parties thereto, for that which a man could and
ought to prevent is imputed to him, if he does not prevent it. Again, a ling is
not by himself capable of examining into the causes of a war and the
possibility of a mistake on his part is not unlikely and such a mistake would
bring great evil and ruin to multitudes. Therefore war ought not to be made on
the sole judgment of the king, nor, indeed, on the judgment of a few, but on
that of many, and they wise and upright men.
25. Third proposition: Other lesser folk who have no place or audience in
the prince's council or in the public council are under no obligation to
examine the causes of a war, but may serve in it in reliance on their betters.
This is proved, first, by the fact that it is impossible and inexpedient to
give reasons for all acts of state to every member of the commonalty. Also by
the fact that men of the lower orders, even if they perceived the injustice of
a war, could not stop it, and their voice would not be heeded. Therefore, any
examination by them of the causes of a war would be futile. Also by the fact
that for men of this sort it is enough proof of the justice of war (unless the
contrary be quite certain) that it is being waged after public counsel and by
public authority. Therefore no further examination on their part is needed.
26. Fourth proposition: Nevertheless the proofs and tokens of the injustice
of the war may be such that ignorance would be no excuse even to subjects of
this sort who serve in it. This is clear, because such ignorance might be
deliberate and adopted with evil intent towards the enemy. Also, were this
otherwise, unbelievers would be excused when they follow their chieftains to
war against Christians and it would be unlawful to kill them, it being certain
that they deem themselves to have a just cause of war. Also, the soldiers who
crucified Christ, ignorantly following Pilate's order, would be excused. Also,
the Jewish mob would be excused which was led by the elders to shout "Away
with Him, crucify Him."
27. Third doubt: What should be done when the justice of the war is
doubtful, that is, when there are apparent and probable reasons on both sides.
First proposition: As regards the princes themselves, it seems that if one be
in lawful possession, the other may not try to turn him out by war and armed
force, so long as the doubt remains. For example: Suppose the King of France to
be in lawful possession of Burgundy and that it be doubtful whether he has or
has not right thereto. The Emperor may not try to oust him by arms; nor on the
other hand may the French King seize Naples or Milan, if there be doubt who is
entitled to it. The proof is that in doubtful matters the party in possession
has the better position. Therefore it is not lawful to dispossess the possessor
in favor of a doubtful cause. Further, if the matter were being heard by a
lawful judge, he would never in case of doubt dispossess the party in
possession. Therefore, if we postulate that those princes who are asserting a
right are judges in their own cause, they may not lawfully eject a possessor so
long as there is any doubt about the title. Further, in the suits and causes of
private persons it is never permissible in a doubtful matter to dispossess a
lawful possessor. Therefore not in the causes of princes; for the laws are the
princes' laws. Therefore, if by human law it is not permissible in a doubtful
matter to dispossess a lawful possessor, it can quite validly be objected to
princes, "Obey the law thyself hast made, seeing that a man ought to adopt
the same law for himself which he has enjoined on others." Also, were it
otherwise, a war could be just on both sides and would never be settled. For if
in a doubtful matter it were lawful for one side to assert his claim by force,
the other might make armed defense, and after the one had obtained what he
claimed, the other might afterwards claim it back, and so there would be war
without end, to the ruin and tribulation of peoples.
28. Second proposition: If the city or province in regard of which the doubt
arises has no lawful possessor, as, for instance, if it were open by reason of
the death of the lawful lord and there is a doubt whether the King of Spain or
the King of France be the heir and no certainty in point of law can be
attained, it seems that, if one party wants to settle and make a division or
compromise as to part of the claim, the other is bound to accept his proposal,
even if that other be the stronger and able to seize the whole by armed force;
nor would he have a just cause of war. The proof is that when the merits of a
quarrel are equal, one side does no wrong by claiming an equal part of the
thing in dispute. Further, in private disputes also, where the matter is in
doubt, one party may not seize the whole thing. Also, in the same way the war
would be just on both sides. Also, a just judge would not decree and award the
whole thing to either party.
29. Third proposition: He who is in doubt about his own title is bound, even
though he be in peaceable possession, to examine carefully into the cause and
give a quiet hearing to the arguments of the other side, if so be he may thus
attain certitude either in favor of himself or the other. This is proved by the
fact that a man who is in doubt and neglects to ascertain the truth is not in
possession in good faith. So also, in a matrimonial cause, if the man who is in
lawful possession entertains a doubt whether in truth the woman is his or the
other's, it is certain that he is bound to examine the question. Therefore the
same principle applies in other causes. Also, princes are judges in their own
cases, inasmuch as they have no superior. But it is certain that, if any one
raises any objection to a lawful possessor, the judge is bound to examine the
case. Therefore in a doubtful matter princes are bound to examine their own
30. Fourth proposition: After examination of the case the lawful possessor
is not bound to quit possession so long as the doubt reasonably persists, but
may lawfully retain it. This is manifestly so, for, firstly, no judge could
divest him of it. Therefore he is not bound to give it up, 441 either the whole
or part. Also, in a matrimonial cause where the matter is doubtful, the man is
under no obligation to give up his possession, as is laid down in X, 5,
39, 44, and in X, 4, 21, 2. Therefore the like is not required in other
causes. And Adrian expressly holds (qu. 2, Quotlib. 2) that a party in
doubt may retain his possession, and he applys this rule to princes in a
doubtful matter. But concerning subjects who are in doubt with regard to the
justice of a war, Adrian indeed says (Quotlib. 2, on the first principal
argument) that a subject in such a case, that is, one who is in doubt whether
the alleged cause of a war is a sufficient one or simply whether there exists
some sufficient cause for declaring war, may not serve in such a war, even at
the command of his prince. The proof is that he exposes himself to the danger
of mortal sin. Also, what is not of faith is sin, a doctrine which, according
to the doctors and to truth, is to be understood as condemnatory, not only
where the conscience is assured or based on opinion, but also where it is in
doubt. Sylvester seems to hold the same doctrine, under the word bellum,
I, § 9.
31. But let this be my fifth proposition: In the first place, there is no
doubt that in a defensive war subjects may, even though the matter be doubtful,
follow their prince to the war; nay, that they are bound to follow him, and
also in an offensive war. The first proof is in the fact that, as has been
said, a prince is not able, and ought not, always to render reasons for the war
to his subjects, and if subjects can not serve in war except they are first
satisfied of its justice, the State would fall into grave peril and the door
would be opened to wrongdoing. Also, in doubtful matters the safer course ought
to be adopted. Now, if subjects in a case of doubt do not follow their prince
to the war, they expose themselves to the risk of betraying their State to the
enemy, and this is a much more serious thing than fighting against the enemy
despite a doubt. Therefore they ought rather to fight. Also, this is manifestly
proved by the fact that the lictor is bound to carry out the decree of the
judge, even though he has his doubts about its justice, for there would be
serious danger in the opposite course. Also, St. Augustine writing against the
Manichĉans, defends this line of argument, where he says:
"If a righteous person be in the military service of a sacrilegious
king, he may consistently go to war at his command, provided that it is certain
that the command laid on him is not contrary to the Divine precepts or that it
is not certain whether it be so" (C. 23, qu. 1, can. quid
culpatur). Here we have St. Augustine expressly declaring that if it is not
certain — that is, if there is a doubt — whether it be against God's
precepts, the subject may lawfully go to the war. And however Adrian may twist
and turn, he can not free himself from the authority of St. Augustine, for our
proposition is, beyond cavil, the conclusion at which St. Augustine arrives.
Nor does it avail to say that such a person ought to get rid of his doubt and
make his conscience acquiesce in the justice of the war, for it remains that,
mortally speaking, this is impossible, as in other cases of doubt. Now,
Adrian's mistake seems to be in thinking that, if I am in doubt whether this
war is just for my prince or whether there be a just cause for this war, it
immediately follows that I am in doubt whether or no I ought to go to this war.
I admit that I am no wise justified in doing what my conscience doubts about
and that, if I am doubtful about the lawfulness of doing any given thing, I sin
if I do it. But any doubt of mine about the justice of this war does not
necessarily involve a doubt whether I ought to fight or serve in this war. Nay,
it is quite the other way about. For although I may doubt whether the war is
just, yet the next point is that I may lawfully serve in the field at my
prince's command. It is precisely the same as with a lictor who has his doubts
whether the judge's decree is just, it does not follow therefrom that he doubts
whether or no he ought to carry it into execution; he knows that he is bound to
carry it into execution. So, also, if the doubt be whether this woman be my
wife; I am, consequent upon such doubt, bound to render her conjugal rights.
32. The fourth doubt is: Whether a war can be just on both sides. The
following is my answer: First proposition: Apart from ignorance the case
clearly can not occur, for if the right and justice of each side be certain, it
is unlawful to fight against it, either in offense or in defense. Second
proposition: Assuming a demonstrable ignorance either of fact or of law, it may
be that on the side where true justice is the war is just of itself, while on
the other side the war is just in the sense of being excused from sin by reason
of good faith, because invincible ignorance is a complete excuse. Also, on the
side of the subjects at any rate, this may often occur; for even if we assume
that a prince who is carrying on an unjust war knows about its injustice, still
(as has been said) subjects may in good faith follow their prince, and in this
way the subjects on both sides may be doing what is lawful when they fight.
33. Hence arises the fifth doubt: Whether one who has in ignorance gone in
an unjust war and subsequently is convinced of its injustice is bound to make
amends therefor. This may be asked both about a prince and about a subject. My
first proposition is: If the injustice of the war had been within reach of
proof by him, he is bound when he learns of its injustice to give back what he
has taken away and not yet consumed — that is, to the extent to which he
has been enriched; but he need make no amends as regards what he has consumed,
because the rule of law is that a person who is not in fault ought not to be
damnified, just as one who in good faith attended a sumptuous banquet given by
a thief where stolen things were consumed would be under no obligation to give
redress therefor, save perhaps up to the amount that his meal would have cost
him at home. Sylvester, however, says, under the word bellum, I, §
9, that if our man was in doubt about the injustice of the war yet followed his
lord's authority, he is liable to make good everything, because it was with bad
faith that he fought.
Now, let my second proposition, in conformity with the foregoing, be:
Our man is not bound to make good what has been consumed, any more than the
other side would be, because (as has been said) his fighting was lawful and in
good faith. Sylvester's contention would, however, be sound if the man had
really been in doubt whether it was lawful for him to go to the war, for he
would then be acting against his conscience. Now, much attention must be paid
to the admitted fact that a war may be just and lawful in itself and yet owing
to some collateral circumstance may be unlawful. For it is admitted that one
may be entitled to recapture a city or a province and yet that, because of some
scandal, this may become quite unlawful. For inasmuch as (according to what has
been said before) wars ought to be waged for the common good, if some one city
can not be recaptured without greater evils befalling the State, such as the
devastation of many cities, great slaughter of human beings, provocation of
princes, occasions for new wars to the destruction of the Church (in that an
opportunity is given to pagans to invade and seize the lands of Christians), it
is indubitable that the prince is bound rather to give up his own rights and
abstain from war. For it is clear that if the King of France, for example, had
a right to retake Milan, but by the war both the Kingdom of France and the
Duchy of Milan would suffer intolerable ills and heavy woes, it would not be
right for him to retake it. This is because that war ought to take place either
for the good of France or for the good of Milan. Therefore, when, on the
contrary, great ills would befall each side by the war, it could not be a just
34. With regard to another question, namely, what degree of stress is lawful
in a just war, there are also many doubts. The first is: Whether it is lawful
in war to kill the innocent. It seems that it is; because, in the first place,
the Sons of Israel slew children at Jericho, as appears from Joshua, ch.
6, and afterwards Saul slew children in Amalek (I Samuel, ch. 15), and
in both these cases it was by the authority and at the bidding of God.
"Now, whatever is written is written for our instruction," as appears
from Romans, ch. 15. Therefore, if a war of the present day be just, it
will be lawful to kill the innocent.
35. With regard to this doubt, let my first proposition be: The deliberate
slaughter of the innocent is never lawful in itself. This is proved, firstly,
by Exodus, ch. 23: "The innocent and righteous slay thou not."
Secondly, the basis of a just war is a wrong done, as has been shown above. But
wrong is not done by an innocent person. Therefore war may not be employed
against him. Thirdly, it is not lawful within a State to punish the innocent
for the wrongdoing of the guilty. Therefore this is not lawful among enemies.
Fourthly, were this not so, a war would be just on both sides, although there
was no ignorance, a thing which, as has been shown, is impossible. And the
consequence is manifest, because it is certain that innocent folk may defend
themselves against any who try to kill them. And all this is confirmed by
Deuteronomy, ch. 20, where the Sons of Israel were ordered to take a
certain city by force and to slay every one except women and little ones.
36. Hence it follows that even in war with the Turks it is not allowable to
kill children- This is clear, because they are innocent. Aye, and the same
holds with regard to the women of unbelievers. This is clear, because so far as
the war is concerned, they are presumed innocent; but it does not hold in the
case of any individual woman who is certainly guilty. Aye, and this same
pronouncement must be made among Christians with regard to harmless
agricultural folk, and also with regard to the rest of the peaceable civilian
population, for all these are presumed innocent until the contrary is shown. On
this principle it follows that it is not lawful to slay either foreigners or
guests who are sojourning among the enemy, for they are presumed innocent, and
in truth they are not enemies. The same principle applies to clerics and
members of a religious order, for they in war are presumed innocent unless the
contrary be shown, as when they engage in actual fighting.
37. Second proposition: Sometimes it is right, in virtue of collateral
circumstances, to slay the innocent even knowingly, as when a fortress or city
is stormed in a just war, although it is known that there are a number of
innocent people in it and although cannon and other engines of war can not be
discharged or fire applied to buildings without destroying innocent together
with guilty. The proof is that war could not otherwise be waged against even
the guilty and the justice of belligerents would be balked. In the same way,
conversely, if a town be wrongfully besieged and rightfully defended, it is
lawful to fire cannon-shot and other missiles on the besiegers and into the
hostile camp, even though we assume that there are some children and innocent
Great attention, however, must be paid to the point already taken, namely,
the obligation to see that greater evils do not arise out of the war than the
war would avert. For if little effect upon the ultimate issue of the war is to
be expected from the storming of a fortress or fortified town wherein are many
innocent folk, it would not be right, for the purpose of assailing a few
guilty, to slay the many innocent by use of fire or engines of war or other
means likely to overwhelm indifferently both innocent and guilty. In sum, it is
never right to slay the guiltless, even as an indirect and unintended result,
except when there is no other means of carrying on the operations of a just
war, according to the passage (St. Matthew, ch. 13) "Let the tares
grow, lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with
38. Here a doubt may arise whether the killing of guiltless persons is
lawful when they may be expected to cause danger in the future; thus, for
example, the children of Saracens are guiltless, but there is good reason to
fear that when grown up they will fight against Christians and bring on them
all the hazards of war. Moreover, although the adult male civilians of the
enemy who are not soldiers are presumed to be innocent, yet they will hereafter
carry a soldier's arms and cause the hazard named. Now, is it lawful to slay
these youths? It seems so, on the same principle which justifies the incidental
killing of other guiltless persons. Also (Deuteronomy, ch. 20) the Sons
of Israel were ordered when assaulting any city to slay "every adult
male." Now, it can not be presumed that all of these would.
My answer is that although this killing may possibly be defended, yet I
believe that it is in no wise right, seeing that evil is not to be done even in
order to avoid greater evil still, and it is intolerable that any one should be
killed for a future fault. There are, moreover, other available measures of
precaution against their future conduct, namely, captivity, exile, etc., as we
shall forthwith show. Hence it follows that, whether victory has already been
won or the war is still in progress, if the innocence of any soldier is evident
and the soldiers can let him go free, they are bound to do so.
To the argument on the opposite side my rejoinder is that the slaughter in
the instances named was at the special command of God, who was wroth against
the people in question and wished to destroy them utterly, just as he sent fire
on Sodom and Gomorrah which devoured both guiltless and guilty together. He,
however, is Lord of all and has not given this license as a common law. And the
same answer might be made to that passage in Deuteronomy, ch. 20. But,
inasmuch as what is there enjoined is in the form of a common law of war for
all future time, it would rather seem that the Lord enjoined it because all
adult males in an enemy State are deemed guilty, and guiltless can not be
distinguished from guilty. Therefore all may be killed.
39. The second doubtful point is whether in a just war it is lawful to
despoil innocent enemy-subjects. Let my first proposition be: It is certainly
lawful to despoil the innocent of goods and things which the enemy would use
against us, such as arms, ships, and engines of war. This is clear, because
otherwise we could not gain the victory, which is the aim of war. Nay, it is
also lawful to take the money of the innocent and to burn and destroy their
grain and kill their horses, if this is requisite in order to sap the enemy's
strength. Hence follows the corollary that if the war goes on for an
indefinitely long time it is lawful utterly to despoil all enemy-subjects,
guilty and guiltless alike, for it is from their resources that the enemy is
feeding an unjust war, and, on the other hand, his strength is sapped by this
spoliation of his citizens.
40. Second proposition: If a war can be carried on effectively enough
without the spoliation of the agricultural population and other innocent folk,
they ought not to be despoiled. Sylvester maintains this (under the word
bellum I, § 10) on the ground that war is founded on a wrong done,
and therefore the rights of war may not be enforced against the innocent if the
wrong can be redressed in another quarter. Aye, and Sylvester adds that, even
if there were good reason to despoil the innocent, yet when the war is over the
victor is bound to restore to them whatever is left. This, however, I do not
think necessary, because, as said above, whatever is done in right of war
receives the construction most favorable to the claims of those engaged in a
just war. Hence, whatever has been lawfully seized is not in my opinion subject
to restitution. All the same, Sylvester's remark is a pious one and not
indefensible. But the spoliation of foreigners and travelers on enemy soil,
unless they are obviously at fault, is in no wise lawful, they not being
41. Third proposition: If the enemy refuse to restore things wrongfully
seized by them and the injured party can not otherwise properly recoup himself,
be may do so wherever satisfaction is obtainable, whether from guilty or from
innocent. For instance, if French brigands made a raid into Spanish territory
and the French King would not, though able, compel them to restore their booty,
the Spanish might, on the authorization of their sovereign, despoil French
merchants or farmers, however innocent these might be. This is because,
although the French State or Sovereign might initially be blameless, yet it is
a breach of duty, as St. Augustine says, for them to neglect to vindicate the
right against the wrongdoing of their subjects, and the injured sovereign can
take satisfaction from every member and portion of their State. There is,
accordingly, no inherent injustice in the letters of marque and reprisals which
princes often issue in such cases, because it is on account of the neglect and
breach of duty of the other prince that the prince of the injured party grants
him this right to recoup himself even from innocent folk. These letters are,
however, hazardous and open the way to plunder.
42. The third doubtful point is: Assuming the unlawfulness of the slaughter
of children and other innocent parties, is it permissible, at any rate, to
carry them off into captivity and slavery? This can be cleared up in a single
proposition, namely: It is in precisely the same way permissible to carry the
innocent off into captivity as to despoil them, liberty and slavery being
included among the good things of Fortune. And so when a war is at that pass
that the indiscriminate spoliation of all enemy-subjects alike and the seizure
of all their goods are justifiable, then it is also justifiable to carry all
enemy-subjects off into captivity, whether they be guilty or guiltless. And
inasmuch as war with pagans is of this type, seeing that it is perpetual and
that they can never make amends for the wrongs and damages they have wrought,
it is indubitably lawful to carry off both the children and the women of the
Saracens into captivity and slavery. But inasmuch as, by the law of nations, it
is a received rule of Christendom that Christians do not become slaves in right
of war, this enslaving is not lawful in a war between Christians; but if it is
necessary having regard to the end and aim of war, it would be lawful to carry
away even innocent captives, such as children and women, not indeed into
slavery, but so that we may receive a money-ransom for them. This, however,
must not be pushed beyond what the necessity of the war may demand and what the
custom of lawful belligerents has allowed.
43. The fourth doubtful point is: Whether it is lawful at any rate to kill
hostages who have been taken from the enemy, either in time of truce or on the
conclusion of a war, if the enemy break faith and do not abide by their
undertakings. My answer is in a single proposition: If the hostages are in
other respects among the guilty, as, for instance, because they have borne
arms, they may rightfully be lulled in that case; if, however, they are
innocent, as, for instance, if they be children or women or other innocent
folk, it is obvious from what has been said above that they can not be killed.
44. The fifth doubt is: Whether in a just war it is lawful to kill, at any
rate, all the guilty. Prefatory to an answer be it noted that, as is shown by
what has been said above, war is waged: Firstly, in defense of ourselves and
what belongs to us; secondly, to recover things taken from us; thirdly, to
avenge a wrong suffered by us; fourthly, to secure peace and security.
45. This premised, let my first proposition be: In the actual heat of
battle, either in the storming or in the defense of a city, all who resist may
be killed indiscriminately; and, briefly, this is so as long as affairs are in
peril. This is manifest, because combatants could not properly effect their
purpose save by removing all who hinder and resist them. All the doubt and
difficulty, however, is to know whether, when we have won our victory and the
enemy is no longer any danger to us, we may kill all who have borne arms
against us. Manifestly, yes. For, as shown above, one of the military precepts
given by the Lord (Deuteronomy, ch. 20) was that when a city of the
enemy had been taken all dwellers in it were to be killed. The words of the
passage are: "When thou comest nigh unto a place to fight against it, then
proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be if it make thee answer of peace, and
open unto thee, that all the people that is found therein shall be saved and
shall be tributaries unto thee and shall serve thee. But if it will make no
peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it.
And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite
every male thereof with the edge of the sword, but not the women and the little
46. Second proposition: Even when victory has been won and no danger
remains, it is lawful to kill the guilty. The proof is that, as said above, war
is ordained not only for the recovery of property, but also for the avenging of
wrongs. Therefore the authors of a past wrong may be killed therefor. Again,
this is permissible against our own wrongdoing citizens. Therefore also against
foreigners; for, as said above, a prince when at war has by right of war the
same authority over the enemy as if he were their lawful judge and prince. And
a further reason is that, although there be no present danger from the enemy,
yet security for the future can not be had, unless the enemy be restrained by
the fear of punishment.
47. Third proposition: Merely by way of avenging a wrong it is not always
lawful to kill all the guilty. The proof is that even among citizens it would
not be lawful, not even where the wrong was done by the whole city or district,
to kill all the delinquents; nor in a common rebellion would it be permissible
to slay and destroy the whole population. Accordingly for such a deed, St.
Ambrose interdicted Theodosius from the church For such conduct would not be
for the public good, which is nevertheless the end and aim of both war and
peace. Therefore, it is not right to kill all the guilty among the enemy. We
ought, then, to take into account the nature of the wrong done by the enemy and
of the damage they have caused and of their other offenses, and from that
standpoint to move to our revenge and punishment, without any cruelty and
inhumanity. In this connection Cicero says (Offices, bk. 2) that the
punishment which we inflict on the guilty must be such as equity and humanity
allow. And Sallust says:
"Our ancestors, the most religious of men, took naught from
those they conquered save what was authorized by the nature of their
48. Fourth proposition: Sometimes it is lawful and expedient to kill all the
guilty. The proof is that war is waged in order to get peace and security. But
there are times when security can not be got save by destroying all one's
enemies: and this is especially the case against unbelievers, from whom it is
useless ever to hope for a just peace on any terms. And as the only remedy is
to destroy all of them who can bear arms against us, provided they have already
been in fault. That is how the injunction in Deuteronomy, ch. 20, is to
be interpreted. Otherwise, however, in a war with Christians, where I do not
think this would be allowable. For, as it needs must be that scandals come
(St. Matthew, ch. 18) and also wars between princes, it would involve
the ruin of mankind and of Christianity if the victor always slew all his
enemies, and the world would soon be reduced to solitude, and wars would not be
waged for the public good, but to the utter ruin of the public. The measure of
the punishment, then, must be proportionate to the offense, and vengeance ought
to go no further, and herein account must be taken of the consideration that,
as said above, subjects are not bound, and ought not, to scrutinize the causes
of a war, but can follow their prince to it in reliance on his authority and on
public counsels. Hence in the majority of cases, although the war be unjust on
the other side, yet the troops engaged in it and who defend or attack cities
are innocent on both sides. And therefore after their defeat, when no further
danger is present, I think that they may not be killed, not only not all of
them, but not even one of them, if the presumption is that they entered on the
strife in good faith.
49. Sixth doubt: Whether it is lawful to slay those who have surrendered or
been captured, supposing them also to have been guilty. My answer is that,
speaking absolutely, there is nothing to prevent the killing of those who have
surrendered or been captured in a just war so long as abstract equity is
observed. Many of the rules of war have, however, been fashioned by the law of
nations, and it seems to be received in the use and custom of war that
captives, after victory has been won (unless perchance they have been routed)
and all danger is over, are not to be killed, and the law of nations must be
respected, as is the wont among good people. But I do not read or hear of any
such custom with regard to those who have surrendered; nay, on the capitulation
of a fortress or city it is usual for those who surrender to try and provide
for themselves in the conditions of the capitulation, as that their heads shall
be safe and that they shall be let go in safety; that is, they fear that an
unconditional surrender would mean their deaths. We read of this being several
times done. Accordingly, it does not seem unjust that, if a city capitulates
without taking any such precautions, the more notorious offenders should be put
to death on the order of the prince or a judge.
50. Seventh doubt: Whether everything that is captured in a just war becomes
the property of the captor and seizor. My first proposition hereon is: There is
no doubt that everything captured in a just war vests in the seizor up to the
amount which provides satisfaction for the things that have been wrongfully
seized and which covers expenses also. This needs no proof, for that is the end
and aim of war. But, apart from all consideration both of restitution and
satisfaction, and looking at the matter from the standpoint of the law of war,
we must distinguish according as the things captured in war are movables (like
money, garments, silver, and gold), or are immovables (like lands, cities, and
51. This being assumed, let my second proposition be: All movables vest in
the seizor by the law of nations, even if in amount they exceed what will
compensate for damages sustained. This is clear from Dig., 49, 15, 28
and 24, and from can. 9, Dist. I, and it is more expressly laid down in
Inst., 2, 1, 17, where it is said that "by the law of nations
whatever is taken from the enemy immediately becomes ours, even so far as that
free persons may be made our slaves." And St. Ambrose says (Liber de
Patriarchis) that when Abraham slew the four kings their spoil belonged to
him as the conqueror, although he refused to take it (Genesis, ch. 14,
and can. 25, C. 23, qu. 5). And this is confirmed by the authority of the Lord
(Deuteronomy, ch. 20), where He says concerning the storming of a town:
"All the spoil thereof thou shalt divide with the army and thou shalt
eat of the spoil of thine enemies." Adrian holds this opinion in his
quaestio on restitution, in the special quaestio on war. So,
also, Sylvester, under the word bellum, § 1 and § 9, where he
says that he who fights a just cause is not bound to give back his booty (can.
2, C. 23, qu. 7). "Hence it follows that what is taken in war is not used
as a set-off against the principal debt, as the Archdeacon also holds (can. 2,
C. 23, qu. 2)." And Bartolus is of the same opinion, in his comment on
Dig., 49, 15, 28. And this is understood to be so even if the enemy be
ready to make amends in other ways for the damages and wrongs suffered.
Sylvester, however, limits this, and rightly, allowing it only until a
satisfaction sufficient in equity has been taken for the damages and wrongs
suffered. For it is not to be imagined that, if the French have ravaged some
one district or insignificant town in Spain, the Spanish might also, if they
could, ravage the whole of France; they can only retort in a manner
proportionate in kind and degree to the wrong done, according to the estimate
of a good man.
52. But on this conclusion a doubt arises, namely, whether it is right to
give a city up to the soldiery to sack. My answer is, and let this be my third
proposition: This is not unlawful in itself, if necessary for the conduct of
the war or as a deterrent to the enemy or as a spur to the courage of the
troops. So Sylvester, under the word bellum, § 10. It is on the
same principle as that which justifies the burning of a city for reasonable
cause Nevertheless, inasmuch as such authorization to sack results in many
horrors and cruelties, enacted beyond all humane limits by a barbarous
soldiery, such as slaughter and torture of the innocent, rape of virgins,
dishonor of matrons, and looting of temples, it is undoubtedly unjust in the
extreme to deliver up a city, especially a Christian city, to be sacked,
without the greatest necessity and weightiest reason. If, however, the
necessities of war require it, it is not unlawful, even if it be likely that
the troops will perpetrate foul misdeeds of this kind, which their generals are
none the less bound to forbid and, as far as they can, to prevent.
53. Fourth proposition: Despite all this, soldiers may not, without the
authority of their prince or general, go looting or burning, because they are
themselves not judges, but executive officers; and those who do otherwise are
bound to make restitution.
54. Now, with regard to immovable property and things, the difficulty is
greater, and let my fifth proposition be: There is no doubt about the
lawfulness of seizing and holding the land and fortresses and towns of the
enemy, so far as is necessary to obtain compensation for the damages he has
caused. For instance, if the enemy has destroyed a fortress of ours, or has
burnt a city or vineyards or olive gardens, we may in turn seize his land or
fortress or city and hold it. For if it is lawful to exact compensation from
the enemy for the things of ours which he has taken, it is certain that by the
divine law and natural law it is not more lawful to take recompense therefore
in movables than in immovables.
55. Sixth proposition: In order to obtain security and avoid danger from our
enemy it is also lawful to seize and hold a fortress or city belonging to him
which is necessary for our defense or for taking away from him an opportunity
of hurting us.
56. Seventh proposition: It is also lawful, in return for a wrong received
and by way of punishment, that is, in revenge, to mulct the enemy of a part of
his territory in proportion to the character of the wrong, or even on this
ground to seize a fortress or town. This, however, must be done within due
limits, as already said, and not as utterly far as our strength and armed force
enable us to go in seizing and storming. And if necessity and the principle of
war require the seizure of the larger part of the enemy's land, and the capture
of numerous cities, they ought to be restored when the strife is adjusted and
the war is over, only so much being retained as is just, in way of compensation
for damages caused and expenses incurred and of vengeance for wrongs done, and
with due regard for equity and humanity, seeing that punishment ought to be
proportionate to the fault. Thus it would be intolerable that, if the French
raided the flocks of the Spanish or burnt a single district, the latter should
be allowed to seize the whole Kingdom of France. Now, the lawfulness of seizing
on this score either a part of enemy territory or an enemy city appears from
Deuteronomy, ch. 20, where permission is granted in war to seize a city
that has refused to accept terms of peace. Again, internal wrongdoers may be
punished in this way, that is, they may be deprived of house or land or a
fortress, in proportion to the character of the circumstances. Therefore
foreigner wrongdoers also.
Again, a superior judge has competence to mulct the author of a wrong by
taking away from him a city (for instance) or a fortress. Therefore a prince
who has suffered wrong can do this too, because by the law of war he is put in
the position of a judge. Again, it was in this way and by this title that the
Roman Empire grew and developed, that is, by occupation, in right of war, of
cities and provinces belonging to enemies who had injured them, and yet the
Roman Empire is defended as just and lawful by St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St.
Ambrose, St. Thomas, and other reverend doctors. Nay, it might be held approved
by God in the passage, "Render unto Caesar the things that are
Caesar's," and by St. Paul, who appealed unto Caesar and who in
Romans, ch. 13, gave an admonition to be subject to the higher powers
and to princes and to pay tribute to those who at that time, all of them,
derived their authority from the Roman Empire.
57. Eighth doubt: Whether it is lawful to impose a tribute on conquered
enemies. My answer is that it is undoubtedly lawful, not only in order to
recoup damages, but also as a punishment and by way of revenge. This is clear
enough from what has been said above and from the passage in Deuteronomy,
ch. 20, which says that when the Jews have approached a city with good
cause in order to attack it, if the city receives them and opens its gates, all
the people therm shall be saved and shall serve the Jews with payment of
tribute. And this law and usage of war has prevailed.
58. Ninth doubt: Whether it is lawful to depose the princes of the enemy and
appoint new ones or keep the princedom for oneself. First proposition: This is
not unqualifiedly permissible, nor for any and every cause of just war, as
appears from what has been said. For punishment should not exceed the degree
and nature of the offense. Nay, punishments should be awarded restrictively,
and rewards extensively. This is not a rule of human law only, but also of
natural and divine law. Therefore, even assuming that the enemy's offense is a
sufficient cause of war, it will not always suffice to justify the overthrow of
the enemy's sovereignty and the deposition of lawful and natural princes; for
these would be utterly savage and inhumane measures.
59. Second proposition: It is undeniable that there may sometimes arise
sufficient and lawful causes for effecting a change of princes or for seizing a
sovereignty; and this may be either because of the number and aggravated
quality of the damages and wrongs which have been wrought or, especially, when
security and peace can not otherwise be had of the enemy and grave danger from
them would threaten the State if this were not done. This is obvious, for if
the seizure of a city is lawful for good cause, as has been said, it follows
that the removal of its prince is also lawful. And the same holds good of a
province and the prince of a province, if proportionately graver cause arise.
Note, however, with regard to Doubts VI to IX, that sometimes, nay,
frequently, not only subjects, but princes, too, who in reality have no just
cause of war, may nevertheless be waging war in good faith, with such good
faith, I say, as to free them from fault; as, for instance, if the war is made
after a careful examination and in accordance with the opinion of learned and
upright men. And since no one who has not committed a fault should be punished,
in that case, although the victor may recoup himself for things that have been
taken from him and for any expenses of the war, yet, just as it is unlawful to
go on killing after victory in the war has been won, so the victor ought not to
make seizures or exactions in temporal matters beyond the limits of just
satisfaction, seeing that anything beyond these limits could only be justified
as a punishment, such as could not be visited on the innocent.
60. All this can be summarized in a few canons or rules of warfare. First
canon: Assuming that a prince has authority to make war, he should first of all
not go seeking occasions and causes of war, but should, if possible, live in
peace with all men, as St. Paul enjoins on us (Romans, ch. 12).
Moreover, he should reflect that others are his neighbors, whom we are bound to
love as ourselves, and that we all have one common Lord, before whose tribunal
we shall have to render our account. For it is the extreme of savagery to seek
for and rejoice in grounds for killing and destroying men whom God has created
and for whom Christ died. But only under compulsion and reluctantly should he
come to the necessity of war.
Second canon: When war for a just cause has broken out, it must not be waged
so as to ruin the people against whom it is directed, but only so as to obtain
one's rights and the defense of one's country and in order that from that war
peace and security may in time result.
Third canon: When victory has been won and the war is over, the victory
should be utilized with moderation and Christian humility, and the victor ought
to deem that he is sitting as judge between two States, the one which has been
wronged and the one which has done the wrong, so that it will be as judge and
not as accuser that he will deliver the judgment whereby the injured state can
obtain satisfaction, and this, so far as possible should involve the offending
state in the least degree of calamity and misfortune, the offending individuals
being chastised within lawful limits; and an especial reason for this is that
in general among Christians all the fault is to be laid at the door of their
princes, for subjects when fighting for their princes act in good faith and it
is thoroughly unjust, in the words of the poet, that —
Quidquid delirant reges, plectantur Achivi,
(For every folly their Kings commit the punishment should fall upon the
1. Ps. 81, in Vulgate. In A. V. Ps. 82.
Next | Previous |
Contents | Text